Are Ignition Interlock Devices the Answer for Illinois Drunk Drivers?

While most states require repetitive DUI offenders to use an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles, the current push by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is to mandate the device for even first-time offenders. In fact, some groups advocate for IIDs and other alcohol-sensing technology to become standard equipment in all vehicles – a possibility that has some people concerned.

What is an IID?

IIDs are installed on vehicle dashboards and require a breath sample to measure alcohol content before the vehicle will start. Currently, 24 states require an IID for repeat DUI offenders – which includes Illinois – and first-time offenders with blood alcohol levels above 0.15 percent. Another 14 states require an IID for first-time DUI offenders, even when their blood alcohol level was slightly above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Proponents of widespread IID use claim the devices reduce DUI re-arrest rates by 67 percent. Citing alcohol as the cause of one third of domestic driving deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s top recommendation for reducing drunk driving fatalities is mandatory IIDs. However, some groups are not convinced that IIDs are the magical bullet.

The American Beverage Institute (ABI) is concerned that mandatory IIDs treat light drinkers the same as hard-core drinkers. It claims that those just over the 0.08 threshold should not be punished to the same degree as a person who repeatedly drives at high levels of intoxication. The ABI’s position is that judges should continue to exercise some discretion in who is burdened with an IID.

Ignition Interlock Devices in Illinois

Illinois’ Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) Program requires an IID as a condition of a restricted license when a person has at least two DUI convictions or two Statutory Summary Suspensions (resulting from two DUI arrests) or a single DUI conviction with another DUI arrest within 10 years of each other. However, the restricted license can only be granted after a formal hearing before a Secretary of State hearing officer – not to mention the BAIID fees that are required to be pay paid by the licensee.

Only time will tell if all states will adopt mandatory IID use for all DUI offenders. Hopefully, most states will leave judges with a certain amount of discretion to determine who truly needs the burden of an IID so those who made a mistake are not disproportionately punished.

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